For UNICEF, child deaths in Gaza “increasingly taint our collective conscience”

For UNICEF, child deaths in Gaza “increasingly taint our collective conscience”

UNICEF calls for an immediate ceasefire and uninterrupted and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance.

The toll over the past 18 days has been appalling for children in the Gaza Strip, with 2,360 deaths and 5,364 injuries recorded due to incessant attacks, or more than 400 children killed or injured daily. Furthermore, more than 30 Israeli children are said to have lost their lives, and dozens of others remain unable to leave the Gaza Strip. The 18-day period marks the deadliest escalation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip and Israel observed by the United Nations since 2006.

Almost all children in the Gaza Strip are experiencing deeply stressful and traumatic events, in a context marked by massive destruction, incessant attacks, displacement and severe shortages of basic necessities, such as food, water and medicines.

“The killings, mutilations and abductions of children, attacks on hospitals and schools, and denials of access to humanitarian assistance constitute a serious violation of children’s rights,” said Adele Khodr, Regional Director of UNICEF for the Middle East and North Africa. “UNICEF urgently calls on all parties to declare a ceasefire, allow humanitarian access and release all hostages. Even wars are subject to rules. It is imperative to protect civilians, and in particular children, and to avoid targeting them at all costs, whatever the circumstances. »

The West Bank is also reporting an alarming increase in the number of victims. Indeed, nearly a hundred Palestinians, including 28 children, lost their lives, and at least 160 children were injured. Even before the tragic events of October 7, 2023, children in the West Bank were grappling with the highest wave of conflict-related violence in 20 years, with 41 deaths this year to date. of Palestinian children and 6 deaths of Israeli children.

“The situation in the Gaza Strip increasingly taints our collective conscience. The number of children killed and injured is simply appalling,” added Ms. Khodr. “It is all the more worrying to note that in the absence of an easing of tensions and authorization of access for humanitarian aid, notably allowing the delivery of food, water, medical supplies and fuel, the number of daily victims will continue to increase. »

Fuel is essential to the operation of essential facilities such as hospitals, desalination plants and pumping stations. The neonatal intensive care units accommodate more than 100 newborns, some of whom cannot survive without an incubator or mechanical ventilation. However, this equipment requires an uninterrupted power supply.

All residents of the Gaza Strip, nearly 2.3 million people, are facing a severe water shortage which poses an immediate threat to children, who represent around 50% of the population. The majority of water supply systems have been severely impacted or are no longer operational due to several factors, including fuel shortages and damage to vital production, treatment and distribution infrastructure. Currently, production capacity barely reaches 5% of the usual daily volume.

Vulnerable populations rely on non-potable water sources, including highly saline water or brackish water from agricultural wells. To make the situation worse, Gaza’s five sewage treatment plants stopped operating, mainly due to lack of fuel, leading to the discharge of more than 120,000 cubic meters of sewage into the sea.

“The footage showing the rescue of children from the rubble, injured and in distress, then waiting trembling to be treated in hospitals, illustrates the immeasurable horror of the ordeal endured by them. However, without humanitarian access, deaths resulting from attacks may only represent the tip of the iceberg,” said Ms. Khodr. “The toll will worsen exponentially if incubators stop working, if hospitals are deprived of electricity and if children continue to drink unsafe water and do not have access to the medicines they need when they get sick. »

To respond to the dire situation of children in the Gaza Strip, UNICEF calls for:

  • Declare an immediate humanitarian pause;
  • Open all crossing points into Gaza for safe, uninterrupted and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance, including the delivery of water, food, medical supplies and fuel;
  • Allow urgent medical cases to leave Gaza or receive essential health care;
  • Respect and protect civilian infrastructure such as shelters and schools, as well as health, electricity, water and sanitation facilities, in order to prevent civilian casualties, child deaths and epidemics, and providing care to the sick and injured.